Dorchester County Council approves bond bill

CAMBRIDGE — On a 4-1 vote, the Dorchester County Council approved a bond bill that will enable the county to borrow up to $31 million.

The legislation allows the county to collect funds for the building of the New North Dorchester High School, replacement of systems hardware and software for the county Department of Finance, and replacement of emergency communications radio systems.

Moments before the vote to approve the bill, Councilman Rick Price asked for a breakdown of how the funds would be distributed. County Manager Jeremy Goldman answered.

“It’s $20.3 million to replace North Dorchester High School, not to exceed $700,000 for finances’ software/hardware replacement and upgrade. Remember, that’s the backbone of a new county-wide system. That is not just one piece,” Mr. Goldman said of the systems upgrade. “And then not to exceed … $10 million for a radio system replacement.”

Mr. Goldman said the county is still negotiating the cost of the emergency radio system with Motorola.
“We won’t have the actual numbers from Motorola for a while, so that is a placeholder,” Mr. Goldman said of the $10 million portion of the bill. “Remember, that you don’t have to sell all $31 million, but you cannot sell more than $31 million without additional legislation. If the needs are less, you can issue less bonds.”

Councilman William Nichols voted against the bill.

“I can accept the school and the radio system,” Mr. Nichols said, but he wants to avoid issuing bonds to pay for the new software and hardware for the finance department.

“We don’t necessarily have to issue that debt,” for the software, Mr. Goldman said, “but if we don’t put this into the bill, then we can’t go back after the fact. I’m hoping we’re going to be able to just pay it out of next year’s budget.”

During the council’s comments period at the end of the meeting, Councilman Price explained that he had some hesitations about voting “yes” for the bond bill.

“Residents of North Dorchester are excited about the long-awaited replacement of their local high school,” Mr. Price said. “Families with school-age children are especially looking forward to it after coping for years with building maintenance, structural problems, space available, and other issues relating to a campus-style, 60-plus-year-old facility.

“… By passing this bond legislation, we can assure the funding needed for the new school. … While I support and will continue to support a new school, as well as the new radio system for emergency responders, I want to say for the record that I am not in total agreement with this piece of legislation.

“… As I have stated many times over the past several years, I believe the NDHS should have preceded the Career and Technology Center. The outdated high school serves a larger population in providing a broad based, general education curriculum. The money spent on DCTC could have been used to replace the high school that would already be up and operating.

“My current concern is that separate bond bills should have been drafted for each specific project. They are lumped together in this one bill. …”

Also during the meeting, the County Council re-introduced the Dog Control bill. During a February council meeting, the bill was opened to public comment. During that comment period in February, members of the public suggested bolstering the bill, and it was sent back to a committee led by Sheriff James Phillips Jr.

“We took the comments into consideration,” Sheriff Phillips said at the Tuesday meeting. “I met with my committee members. We went back and we redrafted the bill. We made a couple changes to it. … We’re giving it some definition now.”

Another public hearing on the Dog Control bill will be held toward the end of August.

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